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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 03-05 - January 8, 2003

Media contact:

 Cheryl Dybas

 (703) 292-8070

Program contact:

 Marge Cavanaugh

 (703) 292-8002

National Science Foundation Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education Releases New Report
Ten-Year Outlook for Agency's Environmental Research and Education Programs

Recommendations for the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s next decade of environmental research and education programs, prepared by NSF's Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education, have been released today in the report entitled Complex Environmental Systems: Synthesis for Earth, Life, and Society in the 21st Century.

The report concludes that NSF is uniquely suited to carry out fundamental, complex environmental systems across broad areas because it funds all fields of science and engineering. In addition to science and engineering, that support includes the social sciences, as well as crossing disciplinary and organizational boundaries and integrating new knowledge in education. Environmental programs need to be expanded, according to the report, in the social sciences, cyberinfrastructure, observing systems, and education.

"The concept of synthesis-based research is a touchstone for environmental research and education," says Stephanie Pfirman, Past Chair of the Advisory Committee, "and long-term support is necessary to fulfill its promise." Adds David Skole, Current Chair of the Advisory Committee, "Environmental science and engineering problems will provide great challenges and opportunities in the next decade. Environmental research and education are central elements of local, national, and global security, health, and prosperity."

New instrumentation, data-handling, and methodological capabilities have expanded the horizons of what we can study and understand about the environment, the report states. These advances create the demand for collaborative teams of engineers and natural and social scientists that go beyond current disciplinary research and educational frameworks, advisory committee members believe.

"We at NSF are grateful to the Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education for its efforts to produce this thoroughly researched, well-thought-out, forward-looking report," says Margaret Leinen, NSF Assistant Director for Geosciences, and NSF Coordinator for Environmental Research and Education. "The report will help us immensely in our planning for how best to implement new directions in environmental research and education over the next decade."

According to the report, research must integrate spatial, temporal, and organizational scales, draw from many disciplines, and facilitate the synergy that results from partnerships among government, academic, and private organizations. This research must use diverse datasets and approaches, and be effectively communicated among researchers, educators, students, resource and industrial managers, policy makers, and the public.

To move ahead in this next decade, continues the report, environmental researchers need clearly articulated programs with sufficient long-term funding horizons so that they can incorporate interdisciplinary approaches and address complex environmental problems. The need for long-term funding is therefore particularly acute for environmental research and education, the report concludes.


To access the report go to:


National Science Foundation
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: 703-292-8070
FIRS: 800-877-8339 | TDD: 703-292-5090

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